Our lives are continually made easier by the devices created for human health. In order to accomplish this, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are developing a robotic capsule to finish insulin injections.
Large protein medications typically can’t be taken orally since they can’t pass through our mucus barrier. This means that, as mentioned in the news release, insulin and the majority of other “biologic medications” (drugs consist of proteins or nucleic acids) must be injected or administered in a medical facility, as stated in press release.
The study, which was released on September 28 in Science Robotics, suggests that this recently created weensy pill, known as “RoboCap,” may sound the death knell for injections by spinning & tunnelling through the mucus barrier before reaching the small intestine, where it will allow drugs it is carrying to enter cells lining the intestine.
Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Karl van Tassel Career Development Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, explains that by displacing the mucus, “We can maximise drug dispersion within a narrow area and improve absorption of both small molecules & macromolecules.”
Overcoming to obstacles
Lead author of the study and inventor of RoboCap is Shriya Srinivasana, a research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and a junior fellow at Harvard University.
Similar to how tunnel boring machines drill into rock and soil, Srinivasana suggested creating a safe capsule with a mechanism that can tunnel through mucus.
I believed that we could put the medication directly on the epithelium if we could tunnel through the mucus, she says. The idea is to ingest the capsule, and the outer layer would dissolve in the digestive tract, revealing all of these features that would begin to churn through the mucus & clear it.
Working principle is eye-popping
The tunnelling characteristics are located in RoboCap’s main body and surface, which is about the size of a multivitamin. The medicinal payload in a small reservoir at one end. The capsule’s gelatin coating can be modified to dissolve at a specific pH level.
When the coating dissolves, a tiny motor inside the RoboCap capsule starts spinning due to the pH change that follows from this process. The capsule is better able to penetrate the mucus and push it aside thanks to this movement. The capsule is also covered in tiny protrusions that act like toothbrush bristles to eliminate mucus.
“What the RoboCap does is transiently disrupt the first mucus barrier and then boost absorption by enhancing local drug dispersion,” Traverso explains.
We can really maximise our ability to create the ideal situation for the medicine to be absorbed by combining all of these elements.
Vancomycin is a strong antibiotic with a long peptide that is used to treat a number of infections, including those affecting orthopaedic implants & skin infections. In trials on animals, the researchers administered insulin or vancomycin.
The researchers also observed that the capsule could deliver 20-40 times more medication than a similar capsule without the tunnelling mechanism. Furthermore, there was no evidence of inflammation or irritation in the digestive tract after the capsule passed through.